July 01, 2005

Sanibel Island - Day One

I apologize in advance for the switch in tenses - I wrote both what happened, what was going to happen and what was happening. Again, this is a documentation of the trip - not an exercise in writing well. :D Thanks for reading along!

I woke up laughing. Have you ever had a dream that made you laugh? Apparently I had one this morning. I remember waking up to the Oldie’s station with a smile on my face. Fragments of the dream lingered like the smell of garlic after an Italian meal.

I woke up at 5:15 a.m. It was too early, I could have slept, but I needed to get up and do some last minute Internet things (see how I love you all?)

Things went smoothly this morning. We threw our health and beauty aids into our luggage, cleaned up the kitchen and took out the trash. Hubby set the light timers and everyone scarfed down breakfast.

The weather is perfect today. Sunny and 70’s – good flying weather. We got to the airport an hour before our scheduled flight and checked in right away. Springfield is such a small city that it doesn’t take long to get through the whole security thing. And everyone is nice. Not like Dallas where everyone looks at you like you’re a bug they would love to squash.

Nine-twenty, our scheduled time to fly out comes and goes. I tense. I’m not a big fan of the Springfield airport because there are always delays. The last time we flew out of Springfield the plane had mechanical problems and since we live in a remote area (by American Airlines standards) they didn’t have another plane sitting around waiting on us. Needless to say, we missed our connecting flight in Dallas and ended up spending the night at a Dallas hotel, in our clothes. It wasn’t pleasant, but it did give us a horror story to tell people. Unfortunately, that was the kids’ first airplane trip and they were (still are) a little leery of flying.

“Attention, ladies and gentlemen. Our mechanics are working on the plane now and it will hopefully be a few minutes before we start boarding.”

Key word here is: hopefully

I glanced at hubby and mumbled under my breath, “This is the LAST time we fly out of Springfield.” I had visions of running our asses off at the Dallas airport again trying to beg someone to give us four seats to our destination and being ignored. I especially enjoy the disgust airline employees display while we try our hardest to remain calm and rational knowing that if we piss them off, even the slightest, our chances of leaving the airport within the next week are pretty slim.

I don’t DO the beg thing.

However, a few minutes later, we did indeed board and we heaved a sigh of relief. We overheard one of the staff speaking to some guy on the phone that they couldn’t find the oil cap and that’s what caused the delay.

This is important, right?

We sat on the plane for about 20 minutes trying to pretend that nothing was wrong. The captain finally came on and said we were waiting on paperwork. Shortly after this announcement, I noticed a tankard pull up beside the plane (we’re sitting in the very back of the plane and I can barely hear myself type over the jet engines. Good thing I brought some Tylenol). Hubby said he thought it was a sewer truck. Couldn’t they have thought of pumping out the poop earlier?
Finally, the flight attendant did her spiel and we’re in the air now.

We got separated from the kids. They are sitting two rows in front of us. Our oldest, who REALLY hates to fly, was pretty nervous and wanted to split up and sit with either me or hubby but I knew that once we were in the air, he’d have fun sitting with his brother so they could compare notes on their new Gameboy DS games they bought yesterday with their birthday/holiday money.

So, I have no idea what they are doing now, but I’m sure they’re too busy playing to be concerned with what’s going on. (I later learned that they didn't played their games because they were unsure it was safe to “operate electronic devices.” Poor guys, they sat, still as statues, until we arrived in Dallas. The people in front of us complimented us on the fact that we have such well-behaved boys. I resisted the urge to look behind me to see if maybe she was addressing someone behind us).

The plane is only about half full. Hubby and I are sitting in the very back and the single row across from us is empty. Technically, the kids could move back here with us but considering they weren’t not acting nervous, I kept my mouth shut.

Our seats were initially all scattered – hubby was going to sit in 3B, I was going to sit in 12A, and the boys would sit together in the 14th row. However, a man in a wheelchair wanted to sit up toward the front of the plane so our seats were reassigned. It actually worked out better because now hubby and I can sit together.

The flight attendant is serving beverages. I both love and hate this part. I love the fact that I can whet my whistle (I always get so thirsty on planes, I think it’s nerves) but I feel like a moocher by taking it. I know we paid for it, but I still feel like I need to leave a tip or something.
The flight attendant is asking the boys what they want to drink and BJ is giving her a hard time. I think he’s flirting with her! AB didn’t want anything, probably because he’s too nervous to drink and too shy to tell her what he wants. BJ made her laugh when she asked him what he normally drank. He probably said root beer and she heard just the beer part.

He’s being his charming self.

It’s nearly our turn and I think I’ll stick to water. Too much sugar gives me a headache (course I won’t mention that I’m carrying a bag of suckers and a bag of Starburst in my carry on. Shh)
We are scheduled to get into Dallas at 10:30 a.m. Since we got a late start, we will probably get in closer to 11:00. This will still work out as we’ll have time to grab some airport lunch (yum) before catching our 12:54 p.m. flight to Fort Myers. More at the airport.

It’s noon and we’re sitting in the Dallas/Fort Worth airport. We’re at gate C20 after eating a healthy lunch at McDonalds. Actually, we were going to eat at a Chinese restaurant but it was $6.00 a meal and we didn’t feel like paying $30 for lunch.

I hate the Dallas airport though I have to admit, it’s not very crowded. The last time we were here it was so crowded we could barely walk, let alone run, which is what we needed to do. This time around we have an hour to wait. It looks like our plane is already here and waiting for us – which means of course, that something will go wrong at the last minute and we’ll have to wait even longer.

Our gate is pretty crowded. Nearly every seat is taken. We are sitting facing the runway so we can watch the planes take off. The girl sitting on my left is very antsy and bored. She keeps pulling her cell phone out in the hopes that someone has called between the two minutes she used it last. She keeps glancing over at me and hubby (he’s trying to get his voice activation function to work) to see what we’re doing. She’s young, probably early 20’s, if that. She asked us where we were going to make sure she was in the right place.

Ever heard of looking at a monitor?

She’s thin. She has on a white sweat jacket, tight jeans and flip-flops. She has shoulder-length straight blonde hair and raspberry nail polish. She’s trying to look inconspicuous as she glances over her shoulder in my direction but I’m pretty sure she’s trying to read what I’m writing. I’ll be embarrassed if she actually reads any of this.

Looking around me, there is a hodge podge of people. If I had to put a percentage on it – 80% people aged 50 and over, two other families, one has a boy about BJ’s age and one has a little girl about two.

People at airports used to make me so nervous but there’s really no reason to feel that way. For a short period of time, you share breathing space with complete strangers and are forced to act civilized – smile politely, make small talk “where are you headed,” etc.

Forty-five minutes to go! Next stop, Fort Myers!

We’re on the home stretch. We’re on the last plane and we’re sitting in the VERY back. What’s up with that? One advantage though is we can’t hear anything or anybody because of the engines; they are a low roar and right in our ear. We’re also by the bathrooms which means every Tom, Dick and Harry have to stand right next to our seats to wait to use the bathroom. There’s a little boy and his mother waiting and the little boy is dancing up and down because he has to go so bad. It’s weird being stared at while I’m typing this. I hope they can’t read upside down. My question is – why don’t they go BEFORE they leave the airport? It’s funny to watch them from the corner of my eye as they pretend they aren’t watching me or are trying to look everywhere but at me.

I just had a lady ask me what I was using. I knew that was going to happen. I suppose when you have all the coolest toys people are going to wonder what they are. How did I explain this contraption?

“It’s a word processor without the bells and whistles.”

Not a very technical way of explaining it, but it works.

I really hate sitting back here with the bathrooms. I don’t think we’ve ever had to sit in the back before and yet here we are, twice in one day. Yeah.

Another disadvantage to sitting way back here is that we don’t have a window. So we’re flying blind, literally. AB gets really nervous during take off and landings and when we can’t see what’s going on, it’s doubly disconcerting. We’re back here with the kitchen so it’s kind of interesting to see where they store all the drinks and how they work the carts. Of course, I have to endure the stares as the flight attendant’s seat is right behind me, but I suppose that’s the price one pays when we get a “deal” through the airlines. At least we are all sitting together this time. Hubby is one row up and by himself, but I’m sitting here with the boys. They seem more relaxed this time around – probably because I’m here.

Having the engines in my ear does have an advantage though – I don’t have to listen to the kid screaming toward the front of the plane. I can see that her mouth is open, eyes squinted, but no sound. It’s sort of like watching a silent film in color.

We should be hitting Fort Myers in about 2 ½ hours, which will be about 4;30 p.m. After we pick up our car, we’ll probably drive around a bit, get our bearings (where is the nearest grocery store, Wal-Mart, McDonalds, etc.) and then head out to our hotel. We’ll take some pictures of the area when we get settled.

Why is it so hard to stay awake on a plane? And you know something else? Planes put me in a trance. It’s weird. But once we get going and there’s the constant lull of the plane, I go mental. I just sit there, frozen, staring off into space. If I MAKE myself do something, like pull out my Neo and do a little writing, the trance is broken and I no longer feel airsick. Why is that? Is it because my attention has been diverted?

Yes, I get motion sickness, BAD. I can’t go across town without feeling sick to my stomach. I’m ok if I’m driving, but being a passenger, forgetaboutit.

Did I ever tell you about the time I was invited to go to Silver Dollar City with my sister-in-law (and I hadn’t been her sister-in-law for very long so I wanted to make a good impression) and had to have her pull over so I could vomit by the roadside? Talk about embarrassing.
I’d offer some observations about the people around me, but being in the very back row, I can’t see much other than the backs of their heads. I’m afraid that would be boring to describe as well as read. So I’ll sign off for now – zone out to my iPod and write later.

We made it into Fort Myers right on schedule – 4:30 p.m. After retrieving our luggage we rented a car at Alamo rental. We had to wait in line for quite a while because the first man demanded a Cadillac and the upgrade required more money and more paperwork. The next couple didn’t speak English very well so it took a while for the lady to figure out what they wanted.

Finally, it was our turn. We rode the Alamo shuttle to their lot and was told, “The keys are in the car, pick one (they were divided up into categories, we had the intermediate category) and drive it away.”

That’s the first time we were able to choose our car. In the past, we were simply assigned a car. It was really cool to be able to pick. We settled on a silver Grand Am and took off. It took us about 45 minutes from the car rental place to find our hotel. We drove out of Fort Myers airport, drove down Daniels road to Summerlin, crossed the toll bridge (which costs $6.00 every time you drive onto the island. This means we will be sticking to the island and not driving back and forth to Fort Myers), down Periwinkle, down Lingren and finally, followed the winding East Gulf Road to Middle Gulf Road to the Sundial Hotel.

They sustained some damage from the hurricane last year so there is quite a bit of construction. We had to check in at the gift shop because they are still working on their lobby.
We’re staying in the D building, room 406.

I can honestly say, this is the BEST room we’ve EVER had. It’s more like a condominium than a hotel room. It has a small living area, an adjoining dining room, a FULL kitchen with a bar, one full-sized bath and one bedroom. We fell in love with it immediately. This is saying a lot for me because a hotel room is a hotel room, or so I thought. Not so here. It’s GORGEOUS! And I can understand how people can stick around the beach their entire vacation with rooms like this. It’s very cozy.

After the shock of our great room wore off, we left in search of someplace to eat. We ended up eating at a pizza place just down the road from the hotel. Each of us had our own HUGE slice of pizza and their thin crust was really good (I’m not usually a fan of thin crust but this was soft and chewy, not hard). They served their full pizzas on a silver platter with a stand so people could eat under the pizza and save table space. We thought that was clever.

After pizza, we drove around and explored the island. One half of the island is undeveloped and a big chunk of it is reserved for wildlife. They have a seashell museum and there are bike trails everywhere; we’ll probably rent bikes sometime in the next four days and go exploring.
The other side of the island is more residential and the houses are expensive and attractive. There’s an old lighthouse on the very tip of the island. We came across the lighthouse during twilight so the lights were on and it gave the whole island a very charming feel.

There are raccoons EVERYWHERE. And they don’t appear to be very afraid of us, at all. There were three of the critters scavenging in the dumpster behind the restaurant and we’ve seen several just running around. How in the world did raccoons get on the island?! Hubby thinks they might have come by pirates, but who knows.

There are several swampy areas on the island and we’ve learned they have had about six inches more rain than normal this season. I can’t imagine living here during a really bad storm, there’s absolutely nowhere to go – people would have no choice but to evacuate.

After our impromptu sight-seeing tour, we headed back over the bridge to Fort Myers and bought a bunch of groceries at Publix. We ended up spending $75 on food but we figure we’re saving a bundle by not eating out. There are a TON of quaint eating places on the island, but we aren’t willing to spend $30 each time we go out. So…we plan on using our kitchen and cooking in. This will be a very relaxing vacation, as we don’t really plan on leaving our room or the beach.
We got back to the hotel around 10:00 p.m. and we all sat around, sort of zoning out until 11:00. The boys wanted to stay up longer, but I insisted they go to bed and they were asleep within minutes. They are sleeping on the fold out sofa bed.

I can barely keep my eyes open a moment longer. It was a long day of traveling, but we’re here and we’re VERY happy with what we’ve seen so far.

Tomorrow, we’ll explore the hotel further, sit on the beach and hopefully soak up some sun (if it doesn’t rain). I vote we stick around the hotel tomorrow and just veg. We have four days to explore at our leisure.


Want to see pictures? Go here

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